Wisconsin gets $1.1 billion for broadband internet expansion

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has been allocated $1.1 billion to increase statewide access to broadband internet, which it will begin distributing to internet service providers early next year.

The allocation comes as part of the federal $42 billion Internet for All program, part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act.

The funds will support efforts to bring internet service with download speeds of at least 100 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 20 Mbps (known as “100/20” service) to households and businesses considered to be “unserved” (lacking 23/5 service or entirely lacking service) and “underserved” (lacking 100/20 service), with unserved communities as the priority.

“At the Public Service Commission, we are committed to ensuring this funding gets to where it is needed as quickly as practicable while maintaining our high standard of transparency and our strong record of being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” PSC chairwoman Rebecca Cameron Valcq said in a statement.

Much of Wisconsin is considered “underserved” in broadband internet access. Graphic courtesy Public Service Commission.

According to its 2021 Broadband Deployment Report, the Federal Communications Commission estimated that 6.8% of Wisconsinites lacked access to 25/3 broadband service, compared to the national average of 4.4%. According to a 2022 report from the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access, in 2020, Wisconsin’s median internet speed was 62/11 Mpbs.

“These days, having broadband is like having water or electricity in your home,” U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said on a call with reporters. “You absolutely have to have it.”